Dungeon crawlers and board games are both pretty common on iOS. Dungeon crawling board games, however, are not nearly as common. Perhaps that is because there is limited interest in such games among mobile gamers, or perhaps it is because of the complexities that come with trying to convert such games into digital form. So when a digital dungeon crawling board game comes out that was never even a physical game to begin with, I take full notice.
Fallen Lords, by Seth Gupton, is such a game. It features virtual board tiles, cards, dice, and a “doom counter” that could have all easily been physical components. It even has 3D models of little plastic hero and monster figures that you move around the board as the game progresses. There is a lot of attention to detail for a board game that did not ever physically exist except for, as the developer put it, “the prototype made from scraps of paper and pieces cannibalized from other board games.” You can tell from that statement how serious the developer was in trying to create an authentic board game experience, and the game itself is proof of that as well.
You take the role of four heroes tasked with entering a buried city with the goal of defeating ancient evil beings (the titular Fallen Lords) before they escape and “twist the world into their own desolate kingdom”. The Lords have enlisted a variety of monsters to keep the heroes busy as they make their way through the city, which is explored by drawing virtual tiles from a “stack” and placing them adjacent to each other as the heroes go from room to room.
The monsters come in six colors, and these colors are the basis of how combat, looting, and damage are handled. When a hero is in the same room as one or more monsters, they can fight by rolling the battle dice and matching the correct number of colored sides. The other half of the equation is the differently colored power tokens, which can be spent to add points toward defeating monsters. Each hero gets a few of these tokens at the start of the game, and you can get more for a given hero by having them search an empty room that has not seen combat that turn.
While some dungeon crawler fans might think the color based system is too abstract for their tastes, I think it is pretty ingenious and perfectly suits a game that is framed as a board game. There are other mechanics in play as well, in addition to specific winning and losing conditions, but there is a 13 page manual that explains them all quite well.
The presentation and art really help draw you into the game as well. The hero and monster cards especially are well done, and the 3D “plastic figures” are a nice touch. The only issues I had with the game are that the interface can seem a little less than responsive, and when you go from one hero’s turn to another, you have to rotate your device, since each hero is played from its own side of the board. On a related note, this is billed as a cooperative game, but the choices that each hero can make in their turn are relatively limited, so I think it plays much better with just one player controlling them all, since the overall strategic challenge is focused on the heroes tightly working together to defeat the Fallen Lords or die trying.
Overall, the game is satisfying with high replay value, and if you are looking for a digital experience similar to the newer Dungeons & Dragons board games, this is one of the closest things to them available.